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Anyone who reads my articles, and before you ask - there are a few of you, will know that I tend to try and put an amusing slant on the subject matter, and whilst there is an amusing slant to this, the difficulties faced by friends’ and family member’s coping with mental illness leave little room for frivolity.

Carers become emotionally drained as the loved one is more demanding

 

Kaleidoscope

 

Anyone who reads my articles, and before you ask - there are a few of you, will know that I tend to try and put an amusing slant on the subject matter, and whilst there is an amusing slant to this, the difficulties faced by friends’ and family member’s coping with mental illness leave little room for frivolity.

It is all so unfamiliar to us. I think it can be a bit like looking down a kaleidoscope. For most of us the pretty picture is stuck in one setting, for people with mental illness, the picture can change day to day, or even moment to moment, not only that, it can be completely different picture each time it changes.

There are so many strange names, Dementia, Schizophrenia, Depression, Bipolar and Borderline Personality Disorder. BPD is actually a misnomer, it should be called Emotionally Unstable Disorder. For the carers of people with this disorder, it is extremely difficult as one of the ‘symptoms’ is that sufferers do not believe that there is anything wrong with them. People afflicted may look at other patients in a mental care facility and comment that they are all odd whilst not acknowledging their own bizarre behaviour.

 

Carers become emotionally drained as the loved one is more and more demanding, more and more suspicious, ever more creative in their own perception of reality.

 

In the young adult, the symptoms can be mistaken for ‘normal’ teenage rebellion, whatever ‘normal’ is. It does not follow that anyone with BPD will have been depressed, suffered OCD, ADHD, nor that they will ultimately become schizophrenic and the picture is often mixed and hazed, the lines blurred.

 

Family members and friends can be accused of atrocities of which they are not guilty, and whilst this happens in many families, BPD sufferers can be extremely convincing to authorities, all too willing to believe a vulnerable member of society especially pre diagnosis. Families can be dynamited apart. An MD wrote an article about her only daughter and the journey. Starting out with a very close warm relationship in childhood, ultimately of being accused in her daughters late teens, of abusing her whilst a child, and of the daughter being ‘adopted’ by another family as the accusations stuck. Heart-breaking.

 

 

A little word on depression too as this will affect many carers and family members. Depression is often taken as a sign of some kind of weakness whereas in situations like this, it should be taken as a sign of strength. Consider that for the majority of the time – pre depression – you were having to deal with things and situations that most people are hardly ever likely to encounter in a lifetime, never mind in a few months or weeks, consider the strength you employ on a day to day basis. Is it a wonder then that a mental rest be required? A time to regroup? Depression can be an antidote to the stressful situation you find yourself in, in which case there should be no stigma, no shame.

Let’s stop hiding our light behind a bushel. Acknowledge the tough times endured and that there was little you could do at the time and become adept at moving on.

As tough as it is for those afflicted with these illnesses, in many ways it is tougher for those around them, especially in any kind of supporting capacity.
The gamut of emotions is extremely wide and can vary according to each case. Frustration runs very high, despair at times, fear can play a part and guilt too. Sometimes, all of these together.

It is therefore extremely important that those not involved, outside observers if you like, are supportive rather than judgemental of things they don’t really understand. Thankfully the days are disappearing – although not quickly enough in my view – when schizophrenia meant dangerous and depression meant you were somehow flawed. Still it does seem strange in these days of accepting mixed marriages and female vicars that our attitudes are still somewhat staid, more than likely through fear rather than by design.

Our language is littered with phrases like…’you must be mad’, …’it’s a sign of madness’, unfortunately developed as a result of ignorance and an assumption that mental illness is to be abhorred. In modern times we have learnt so much more about the illnesses themselves, how to treat them and likely outcomes and yet there is much more to do.

As we stare down into the kaleidoscope of our lives, whether that picture be pretty or blurred around the edges, spare a thought for the thousands of people affected by mental disorder, and the wildly varying pictures of life that their loved ones see.

 


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